A pair of stakes contests on Sunday featured the returns of disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security and also-ran Roadster, but neither were able to score in their respective races.
First up in the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, King for a Day tracked Maximum Security throughout the 1 1/16-mile affair before rallying in the lane and pulling off the one-length victory over his well-regarded opponent. With jockey Joe Bravo aboard, King for a Day stopped the clock in 1:42.59 over the fast dirt.
“The horse has been coming into his own,” Bravo said. “I texted Todd Pletcher this week and he called me back in two seconds to tell me how high he was on this horse. He was in full control the whole race. Maximum Security stumbled the first couple of jumps and I am sure that hurt him a little bit and he was playing catch-up the rest of the time – even though he was in front until we got to him late.
“I just tried to keep my horse relaxed and ride my horse. He was good when he needed to be.”
Pletcher trains King for a Day for Steve Brunetti’s Red Oak Stable. The Uncle Mo colt earned his first stakes victory in the Sir Barton Stakes while making his sophomore debut May 18 at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes Day, and now boasts a 5-3-0-1, $210,550, career mark.
King for a Day and Maximum Security could rematch in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) on July 20.
Trainer Jason Servis mulled all week whether to bring back Maximum Security for the Pegasus Stakes or to train him up to the Haskell Invitational.
“It was a tough week,” Servis said. “He was feeling good this morning. I sent him out. He was jumping and kicking. I think the stumble (at the start) hurt us a lot. It stinks getting beat but that’s horse racing. I think (the stumble) cost me the race, really. I got beat, what – a length? Tough day.
“I think his next race will be better. I needed to get this out of the way. I was glad to get this out of the way even though he got beat by a nice horse. I think his next race will be better. I hope. But I think it will be.”
Jockey Luis Saez held the reins on Maximum Security and indicated his mount may have been too eager at the start before the layoff caught up with him at the end of the contest.
“He hasn’t run for a while so he was a little desperate in the gate. He wanted to break so he broke so fast he stumbled,” Saez explained. “He was all right after that but I sensed he was getting a little tired.
“I’m not disappointed. Definitely not. He will be OK. I think he needed the race. This is horse racing. Anything can happen. He’s a real good horse. That hasn’t changed. I think the next time he will be OK.”
Later on Sunday, Mucho Gusto got the best of Roadster in the $100,351 Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. The Bob Baffert-trained duo tracked near the back of the six-horse field before putting in their runs, with Mucho Gusto crossing under the wire 2 1/4 lengths in front of Roadster.
Guided by Joe Talamo, Mucho Gusto ran 1 1/16 miles over the fast dirt in 1:45.15 to improve his career mark to 7-5-1-1, $430,800.
“We had a really good trip, he broke really sharp, I noticed the two outside horses went and I was just trying to track them around there. He was just full of run turning for home,” Talamo said. “He just tries really hard and you can do whatever you want with him, he finally drew the outside today so we were able to kind of sit outside.
“With the right trip, I don’t think this colt has any distance limitations. If he settles like he did today, he’s gonna be very tough. He can go to the lead or sit second or third, as long as he settles, he’ll finish.”
“My horse ran good, but Mucho Gusto is really good right now,” added Mike Smith, who guided Roadster. “We just couldn’t run him down, but this should set him up good for next time.”
Campaigned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mucho Gusto added the Affirmed to a resume that already included wins in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3), Bob Hope Stakes (G3) and Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3).
“I told Joe, if we are going to win any bigger purses this horse need to learn to relax instead of going out there fast all the time. I think this horse is maturing, he is a late foal and he’s getting better,” Baffert said. “That race at Sunland (third in the March 24 Sunland Derby [G3]) set him back a little. They went so fast.”
The sophomore may show up against King for a Day and Maximum Security in the Haskell.
“There’s some Derbies around, but I think he’ll probably go to the Haskell,” Baffert stated. “As long as he relaxes, he’ll run that far. When we run him in these races we just try to get something positive from him, but I think Mucho has really improved.
“Roadster was coming at the end but he’s not quite where he was,” the conditioner added. “This was a positive move forward. He needs a little bit more weight on him after (running 16th in) the (Kentucky) Derby. He’s not where he was (when he won the Santa Anita Derby [G1] on April 6), but he’ll get there. He needed a turnaround race and hopefully this is it.”